Michael Offutt's Blog, page 5

October 20, 2017

Lego Ninjago hit theaters in September. 
I haven't seen it yet, but I'm going to correct that tonight with companion, Brad Habegger. We are both not ten years old anymore. So for the benefit of anyone else out there who also finds themselves in the uncomfortable zone of admitting that one is no longer ten, I guess I should probably extend my adult brain into explaining what exactly a ninjago is (because you're in luck).

Ninjago is a portmanteau of "ninja" and "Lego." Think of "Bennifer" or "Brangelina" only in this case it is a world and not a power couple (did I use power couple correctly in a sentence?). "Ninjago" is a fictional place invented as both a theme for Lego sets and a setting for the show Ninjago: Master of Spin. This show started in 2011 and lots of kids like it. The first "Spinjitzu Master" (not to be confused with the defunct Bill O'Reilly who was "Master of the No Spin Zone") used some powerful weapons called the Four Elemental Weapons of Spinjitzu to create it. He had two sons: Lord Garmadon (evil) and Sensei Wu (good). Pretty basic right?
Garmadon (as is the case of evil creatures) was eventually banished to an underworld while Wu protected the powerful weapons. But Garmadon came back, so Wu trained four young ninjas and designated them "keeper of the weapons." They both have goals. Garmadon wants to conquer Ninjago. Wu wants to protect it.
In the movie, there are supposedly six ninjas. They are: 1) Cole (earth ninja), 2) Jay (lightning ninja), 3) Kai (fire ninja), 4) Nya (water ninja), 5) Zane (ice ninja), and 6) Lloyd (green ninja). There's a running gag where he doesn't know what "green" ninja is supposed to mean, just like the clueless audience. Lloyd is the son of Lord Garmadon, which he doesn't like, because his dad keeps attacking the city with his army. Garmadon is also an absentee father.
So that's it. Those are things I know (and from what I've read in reviews) is helpful to know before going into this movie to avoid getting lost.



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Published on October 20, 2017 06:07 • 2 views

October 17, 2017

With the announcement by Ron Howard that the Han Solo movie would simply be called "Solo," it got me to thinking about what I actually expect from a movie about the most famous space smuggler there is.

1) I think that we should see some kind of Heist. I mean...what kind of movie would it be if good ole Chewy and Han weren't making money pulling the wool over someone's eyes?

2) Han should be arrogant. He was pretty full of himself in the original Star Wars (as well as a womanizer) so we should see some of this on display.

3) Lando Calrissian. If we don't see a young Lando and Han playing a game of sabaac, I will be incredibly disappointed.

4) We need to see whatever the Kessel Run is, and it needs to be run in twelve parsecs. This needs to be clearly explained as "impossible" in the movie to do (as well).

5) We'll get a meeting between Han and young Jabba. We already caught a glimpse of him in the Star Wars prequels, but this will be better done because technology and C.G.I. has advanced so much since the early 2000's.

Anyone else caring to take a stab at what we'll see when it hits theaters in December of 2018?
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Published on October 17, 2017 23:01 • 5 views

October 15, 2017

Spoilers Ahead. Please be aware :). Season 1, Episode 5 called "Choose your Pain" was one of the best episodes aired yet, which is to say a lot since this series has got extremely high production values and solid actors. Last night I was caught off guard twice in one episode. For one, the characters dropped the "F" bomb twice. I had to check myself and then realize, hey this is online and a paid subscription at that, so they must feel they can get away with more, and I really like it. Then at the end of the episode, we learned that the doctor and the engineer are a gay couple. I mean...that's just awesome. It's never been a real thing in a Trek show until now. On top of all that, the gay character saved the ship, so yeah he's brilliant and a hero.

But pushing past those two barriers to examine the episode, there was lots to be proud of in the vein of those who like Trek. Roger Carmel's portrayal of Mudd (who we met in the original series) seems to work pretty good. I never really liked the character of Mudd, as he was pretty much an asshole. This new actor carries that role pretty well, reprising the smug trader with no scruples. He says, "I sure as hell understand why the Klingons pushed back, Starfleet arrogance." This probably means that there's more to him than just being a trader in goods. He also has dark political motivations. A possible villain, maybe?

We also learn that Captain Lorca (as if we didn't suspect this already with his commitment to do whatever it takes) is essentially a terrible person. He confesses that he blew up his last command ship so that he could save his crew from the hands of the Klingons. What a way to justify mass murder. The guy's got no moral center whatsoever.

And I also love the spinning ship effect. It's just really cool when they make the jump using the tardigrade and the spore drive. However, what's not cool is that they kept using the tardigrade, even when Burnham kept telling Saru that the spore drive was killing a sentient creature.

Star Trek: Discovery is just a different kind of show. It's dark and gritty with an over-arching storyline and a kind of Babylon 5 or J.J. Abrams reboot kinda feel to it. I wonder where it's going with all this. Maybe the mirror universe? I kinda got that hint from the episode's last scene. Thing is, the last time we saw the mirror universe, everyone had mustaches and strange goatees. That should still be a thing. It really should.


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Published on October 15, 2017 23:00 • 6 views

October 13, 2017

There are spoilers in this post!

Riverdale is back. I love this show because everyone has a motive for murder. And even if they don't eventually end up dead, it's just enough of a fantasy to buy into. I mean...could there be a whole small town of sex-crazed young (exceptionally gorgeous) people bleeding all over the place as they damage and traumatize one another, while listening to great music and leaving a good looking corpse? Maybe not, but who knows? IT COULD HAPPEN IN EDGY-VILLE.

This year's mystery (last year was Jason Blossom's death) is apparently "Who shot Archie's dad?" Played by Luke Perry, I was legitimately thinking a couple of times that they might just bump him off while watching last night. But they didn't, and I think the series is stronger for making this decision. The bit near the end though where Archie stands vigil over their house with a baseball bat to attack any intruder makes me think that they should have just invested in a home security system. It wouldn't have had the same impact though. And although that scene was very dumb, I got an earlier one where Veronica joins Archie in the shower. In that scene, he's watching blood swirl between his toes and thence down the drain. That scene was as hot and steamy as it was intended to be. But...Veronica did get into the shower while Archie was trying to wash his dad's blood from off his skin so yeah...a little dark but I still liked it. Eh...Veronica is not in the series for her ability to comfort people.

You would be mistaken too if you thought that a simple request for help from the local gang wouldn't produce some good helpings of trauma too. Jughead asks the Serpents to help uncover some information they might have about the possible masked shooter, and it results in a bloodied man being delivered to his trailer. They wanted to make sure their effort did not go unnoticed by Jughead. Makes sense, I suppose, in a psychopathic kinda mindset kinda way. I mean, there'd always be that nagging doubt: did they actually look into it?

Finally, Cheryl was a big winner in the premiere. She puts her mother (who's in the hospital with third degree burns) in her place, even squeezing the oxygen tube so that she's gasping, and then telling her that she's in charge now. Wow, go psychopathic teen. She also had the best line of the night in Fred Andrews' room at the hospital: "You gave me the kiss of life Archie Andrews, now I've given it to your dad."

Oh and Jughead ate a burger in the premiere. It's about time.
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Published on October 13, 2017 05:10 • 13 views

October 10, 2017





PORGS ARE HERE! So you might as well know the facts (via io9 and then stuff I made up about them because I is funny):

1) Porgs are residents of Ahch-To, which is the mysterious planet where Rey finds Luke Skywalker. They are here for a reason, and it is not to sell merchandise. Or maybe it is to sell merchandise, but please realize that this is in no way "selling out." It's just fleshing out a universe so that it feels more realistic.

2) Luke Skywalker must be a fan of porgs.

3) They build nests.

4) They can fly short distances.

5) Their babies are called "porglets."

6) They are sea birds. Their coloring varies. Males are slightly larger than females. They're also inquisitive.

7) They're based off puffins, which are eaten in Iceland. So they may be better smoked to balance out the oil. However, because this is a fictional universe, a porg may in fact taste like chicken.

8) They may be low in saturated fat and high in midichlorian content. The reason why Han Solo was on Tattoine in the first place was because he was dropping off a shipment of porgs, which is the food of choice for slave labor on that planet.

9) Gordon Ramsey thinks they're delicious.

10) I suspect that Chewie will work through his grief over losing his lifelong friend by collecting porgs the way an elderly widow collects cats.

Now you are prepared to truly appreciate the porgs. You are welcome. And in case you haven't seen the theatrical trailer, it's below :).

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Published on October 10, 2017 23:03 • 11 views

October 5, 2017

You'd be hard-pressed to find anything "Free" that's as cool as this.

Bottleneck Gallery has teamed up with Warner Brothers to give out some frickin' awesome Blade Runner 2049 posters at New York Comic Con. Man oh man, I wish I was going. These are gonna fetch some serious cash on Ebay. Check them out:

Sigh. I need more high quality free stuff in my life. Have a great weekend.
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Published on October 05, 2017 23:20 • 10 views

October 3, 2017

Today is the first Wednesday in October, not to be confused with the first Monday in October (a designation reserved for the new term of the SCOTUS). This means that it's time for a new Insecure Writer's Support Group post. The website for the IWSG is located HERE, and it's a great way to start making friends in the writer community. In fact, I can't really recommend beginning anywhere else so yeah...if you write...start there first.

This month's question from the desk of the IWSG is as follows:

Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

Unfortunately no. I can say that 100% of everything I've written about, scene-wise and action-wise, is completely made-up. I wish that I led an interesting enough life (even in small snippets) to include in my stories but the fact is that it's just not true (for me at least).

And maybe there's a lesson in this question: in order for you to be a great writer, you should strive to live an interesting life because it will improve your writing. Makes sense, right? Ernest Hemingway was an ambulance driver in World War I, a bull runner, and a heavy drinker all of his life. He married four different women, was almost killed in two plane crashes, and went on safaris in Africa.

Oscar Wilde dared to be a promiscuous homosexual in the puritanical Victorian era. He was in and out of courts on scandalous accusations, sentenced to hard labor, and was publicly humiliated. And of course he drank absinthe. All the great writers did.

Mark Twain was a gold prospector, steamboat pilot, journalist, lecturer, served in the American Civil War and was friends with Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. He died one day after Halley's Comet came closest to Earth, as he had predicted.

Anyway, history is replete with examples of great writers living vibrant, fulfilling lives. It doesn't wax poetic about the schmuck that is middle class and works a 9-5.

So maybe the IWSG is trying to tell us all something this month: live a life that makes you want to slip personal information into your characters. I suppose you can take that to the bank.
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Published on October 03, 2017 23:23 • 5 views

October 1, 2017

This week the world get to see a sequel to Blade Runner that has been promised, withdrawn, promised again, and teased for several decades. The original film has had many cuts: director's cut, the "we found footage cut," the "this isn't quite it but we're getting close" cut, the "superior" cut, etc. In all of them, it is a slow-burning noire detective story swirled together in a science-fiction dystopian vision of the future (which essentially describes the entire cyberpunk genre). It's also (supposedly) pretentious as hell, because "pretension" just means artsy. There are those of us out here who welcome pretension in Ridley Scott movies. For lack of a better explanation, a dumb viewer needs to be self-aware that it's their stupidity that holds them back. After all, it's not the responsibility of every art object to make itself understandable to halfwits. That being said, Blade Runner 2049 promises to be all this and more.

Say what you will about Blade Runner, but it was a movie that accomplished many things. For its star, Harrison Ford, it broke the typecasting he might have fallen victim to (Mark Hamill was never able to escape this bear trap). And the sequel may also be significant in one way: Ryan Gosling might have to change his facial expression at least once. I kid I kid! I love Ryan Gosling, but you have to admit that he does have a remarkably unchanging facial expression at all times. And even in "stoic face" gosling is a pleasure to look at (I know the ladies will at least agree).

And there are Blade Runner purists out there a plenty, but early reviews have basically pegged the sequel as being a masterpiece, so I expect criticism to be few and far between. There will always be those that insist that Blade Runner should have been laid to rest, allowed to bask in its enduring glory forever, untainted by sequel, prequel, sidequel, upquel, downquel, or diagonalquel. But those people need to shut up now. The original was a film that continues to infect the thoughts of many long after the final credits rolled. This means it was good enough to warrant caring about what happened, but complex enough to require some actual thought to fully understand what we all saw.

So that you can be prepared for Blade Runner 2049, here is a run down via Comic-Con San Diego that was posted back in July (that details the events that occurred between the original Blade Runner and the monster sequel due out this week).

2019: Blade Runner Rick Deckard flees Los Angeles with a replicant named Rachael (obviously there's going to be questions answered like, "what has Deckard been doing with Rachael all this time?" I doubt it has been doing origami).

2020: The Tyrell Corporation introduces a new replicant model, the Nexus 8S, which has extended lifespans.

2022: An EMP detonation causes a global blackout that has massive, destructive implications all over the world.

2023: A Replicant prohibition is put into effect.

2025: A new company, Wallace Corp., solves the global food shortage and becomes a massive super power.

2030: Replicant prohibition is repealed.

2049: Life on Earth has reached its limit and society divides between Replicant and Human.

I gotta admit. This has got me excited guys! Anyone else planning on seeing it?
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Published on October 01, 2017 23:20 • 4 views

September 28, 2017

My friend Kevin Long asked me on Wednesday (via a comment) how I liked Star Trek: Discovery. I suppose I thought the implication that I liked it a lot was in there somewhere, as I went to a lot of trouble to get it to show on my LG television. But since my viewing, I've thought about exactly what I liked about it, and I'm going to tell you. Oh and Kevin, if you're reading this, you should send me an email because I lost your contact info in my last move. WARNING: There are spoilers for the first two episodes in this post.

1) Powerful female characters and strong diversity. The captain was Chinese, the first officer a black woman, and both roles predictably dominated over everything else. I liked that these Starfleet officers operated (essentially) without any reference to their sex whatsoever. There was no hint of fear of the Klingons, they did not get distressed or histrionic, there was no "standing down" unless it was done by threat of being shot, and the threats on their existence were taken very seriously and intelligently. The two women in the pilot (at the center of everything) are Captain Philippa Georgiou (played by Michelle Yeoh) and Commander Michael Burnham (played by Sonequa Martin-Green).

2) It's definitely Trek. I think the feel of it lies as a mix between Deep Space Nine and Voyager with punched up graphics, Aaron Sorkin-esque rapid fire dialogue, and combat/space battle front and center. It feels darker, grittier, and very serious. The best of Trek was always in the space battles and wars. The makers of this show know this and they threw it in the pilot episode. Fantastic.

3) Michelle Yeoh blew my socks off. I loved hearing her accent, and it felt refreshing for some reason. Maybe it's the fact that in the real world, we are almost on the verge of a nuclear war with North Korea and that our only hope to reign them in peacefully seems to be through the actions that China may or may not take. Michelle Yeoh spoke her lines with every fiber of her being. It was great hearing such conviction and it is disappointing that she died in episode two.

4) The show is taking big risks. The first two episodes introduced us to a captain that was at the center of tremendous conflict (that was at times an edge of your seat thriller). Then it killed off that captain in a deadly battle that proved how big the stakes were. Multiple ships, including the Shenzou were essentially destroyed. A federation admiral was killed. A war with the Klingon empire was started. And the other main character, Michael Burnham, was sent to prison on charges of treason, conspiracy, and mutiny (essentially for the rest of her natural life). Where the hell do we go from here? If we continue with Michael's story, we will be rooting for a criminal.

5) The finishing touches are incredible. There's an alien on the bridge of the Shenzou that has amazingly detailed skin, to the point that it looks almost iridescent. Whoever is doing the makeup is a maestro at their job. The bridge looks super polished and awe-inspiring. The computer generated graphics are (at times) rather mind-blowing. And the vistas of alien worlds and the shots of the universe out through the main projector screen are stunning. In practically every screen there's an opportunity to say, "wow."

So there you have it. If you watched the show, please share any thoughts you may have in the comments below.
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Published on September 28, 2017 23:02 • 1 view

September 26, 2017

I have technology fatigue. I work in technology, and I live in a smart home. Getting all of that set up took time and money, and it works beautifully. Everything should be seamless, but Star Trek Discovery gave me the huge middle finger last night. Like a lot of people who enjoy Trek, I recorded the first episode. I have an X1 Xfinity DVR with voice control, I have a 4K LG television set mounted above the fireplace, I have all of the HDMI and optical cables routed through the wall, a pioneer surround sound system for great sound, and I have fast Wi-Fi speeds. My 4K television and my X1 DVR both have apps. On X1 I can switch over to the Netflix app seamlessly, although I rarely do this because the broadcast isn't in 4K. Usually when I want to watch Netflix, I use the apps on my 4K television from LG, which is essentially like having a tv with a built-in Roku. I bought it for this reason. I didn't want to have more and more devices. I wanted technology minimalism, as it were.

On my LG television I can watch Amazon, Hulu, Crackle, and countless other apps. However, there is no CBS All Access app. Trust me, I looked. I went online and looked it up, and it turns out that CBS declined to make an app for the LG television. Okay fine. I have Xfinity too. So I went onto Xfinity's app store that has apps like Netflix on it, and nope...there's no CBS All Access. Xfinity on their forums even went so far as to say that this will never happen, as this streaming service by CBS is viewed as direct competition.

Okay, so I went to my small devices, i.e., my iPad and my iPhone. On the support page of CBS All Access, they proudly tout that you can watch these shows on the small devices. Keep in mind that I don't want to watch the show on a small device unless I'm traveling, and that it actually pisses me off that a company uses "This show is made for viewing on a small device" as one of its selling points. Those should be available, yes, but they shouldn't be the main goal. I guess CBS All Access didn't get this memo.

So when I view things like YouTube on my small device, an icon pops up that I can tap that will throw the show onto my television set so everyone can watch it. It's because my Apple and LG are compatible to each other and they are both set up through my Wi-Fi. This was not a coincidence by the way. I selected this compatibility through research when I purchased my electronics. However, the CBS All Access app doesn't produce the icon. It's not encoded on it, so you can't actually transfer any CBS broadcast through the small device onto the LG television. Needless to say, my patience is wearing thin here.

I decide to view the CBS All Access through a web browser built into my LG television set. I type in the web page, enter my sign-in information, and click play on the Star Trek episode. A beautiful commercial for Verizon plays (after which Star Trek will start) and the sound/everything is working as intended. Once the commercial ends, Star Trek starts and plays for two seconds and then stops. It errors out saying that the video is not compatible with this web browser. ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME? I can watch commercials but I can't watch the program?!?

What finally worked was a mockery of everything that I went to the trouble to avoid. I broke out my laptop, connected it to the side of the LG television with an ugly black HDMI cord that dangles down on the side with the fan of the laptop clearly humming, and then used the laptop to view the next episode of Star Trek Discovery, which was now visible on my big television via a hardwired connection of the HDMI cord to input 2. After all this trouble, I will be paying $5.99 a month to watch Star Trek: Discovery in this frustrating manner AND it will be filled with commercial breaks. It really was a big middle finger to all of the trouble I have gone to (and all of the expense) to make my house a beautiful zone of peace. It was a big "Oh...this is nice...too bad YOUR SH*T A'IN'T GONNA WORK WITH THIS HERE PROGRAM! HA!" **spits on my face** "YEAH YOU GONNA EAT THAT SH*T UP, BOY!" Those were the words playing in my mind as I looked at the ham-fisted way I solved my Star Trek Discovery problems.

There's part of me that's incredibly angry with CBS. It's like they made no attempt to make life easier for anyone. They didn't make deals with other companies, they didn't design apps well, and it was all because "zero f*cks were given." It must be nice to live in a world of "zero f*cks."
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Published on September 26, 2017 23:07 • 14 views